20: Interview with Jeff De Maria from Soxy Beast

Today we interview Jeff from Soxy Beast who offers a subscription service for socks in Australia.

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Love the name! How long did it take to come up with it? Are you a fan of the movie?

I am a fan of the movie Sexy Beast, but didn’t really have it in mind when creating the brand. My original name was going to be “Sock Tin” – and then I realized how expensive shipping a metal tin would be each month. I knew Soxy Beast would stick in people’s mind a bit, so just decided to go with it.

Lots of people would ask why do I need this? Aren’t socks quite durable?

Its very rare that someone goes shopping specifically for socks. Socks are an afterthought for most people. Funny enough, most people wear them to work everyday (especially guys), but they never receive as much attention as some of our other attire. I knew the convenience of delivery would appeal to many people, but knew I also wanted to do something different, which is why I decided early on to collaborate with artists and charities so that there was a story behind every design.

Are the styles of your socks all unique? Do you have aborigine inspired socks?

Every style is unique and designed by a different Australian artist. I haven’t had an opportunity yet to work with an aboriginal artist, but it’s in the plans for 2016.

Do you have more male or female customer? Is it like a shoes thing where women are more into it?

When we first launched our customers were about 90% men, but every month we’ve been steadily adding more female customers. Currently it’s about 60% male, 40% female.

Are you the first ever socks subscription box company?

No, not at all. I actually started the business based on initial research that showed 14 other companies were providing sock subscriptions, but they were all focused on the North American or European markets. The fact that 14 companies could all survive all offering the same service proved to me that there was room for one more, especially if I had a strong point of difference. Soxy Beast is the first sock subscription business in Australia, and the only one that manufactures here as well. This local focus has really helped the brand appeal to my customers.

What kind of business do you run? When did you start it and where is it based?

Soxy Beast is Australia’s Savagely Stylish sock subscription. Every month we collaborate with a new Australian artist to design a pair of bold socks for our subscribers. We knit all the socks in Melbourne, and 10% goes to a different Australian charity each month. We launched in Melbourne in December 2014 and have been growing steadily ever since.

What is your daily routine of running your business?

I manage Soxy Beast while also working a full time job as a business consultant. Being a subscriptions business, the process is very predictable and cyclical, so I’ve developed a pretty good monthly schedule. The average day sees me answering emails for customers, suppliers, and collaborators on the train in the morning on the way to the office. Do the regular day-job thing, then get into fulfilling orders and managing subscriptions for a few hours in the evenings. 2 or 3 weekend days a month are devoted to larger activities, such as photo shoots, website updates, and the monthly dispatch.

Are there any blogs, podcasts or Facebook Groups about entrepreneurship you follow closely?

I follow and participate in the r/entrepreneur and r/smallbusiness subreddits on a daily basis. Whether its helping someone out with advice based on experience, or seeking advice myself, I’ve found both of those communities to be very encouraging and full of knowledgeable people willing to share very openly about their successes and failures.

Which resources to run your business do you use most?

I’d say I run about 80% of my business off of my smartphone and a few apps. It’s great to be able to answer emails, arrange samples, order stock and spread our messaging via social networks. Almost every aspect of my business uses a web-based application so I can move between devices. The most useful tools I would recommend for someone with their own small business would be Trello (scheduling, task management), Toggl (time tracking), Evernote (writing copy for social and website), and Google Drive (for managing photos and larger files, though pretty much any cloud-based storage solution with a mobile app would work).

What keeps you motivated to keep working on your business?

At least once a week I get an email or facebook message from a customer telling me how much they like the product and brand, or how excited they are to have discovered an artist through us. Knowing that I’m creating these little moments of joy for my customers really motivates me.

How important do you think is talent when starting a business?

I think talent is important, but not as important as discipline. You can learn almost anything if you are disciplined. I’ve met and worked with many talented people, but don’t know anyone who has gotten very far on talent alone. Because I work with artists I see this quite frequently. Their art might be amazing, but if they aren’t diligent in promoting themselves and their work, or looking at ways to reach new audiences they never get beyond a certain level of success.

Any books about entrepreneurship you can recommend?

I’ve read quite a few at this point, but the one that always sticks, and that I keep coming back to is Tim Ferriss’ 4 Hour Work Week. It’s a bit dated now, but a lot of the basic concepts still hold true. Set your goals, test your idea, game the system wherever possible to help get your business off the ground.

What should you take into account when starting a business?

Ideas are cheap. You can have a hundred business ideas in a month, so how do you decide which is worthy of your time and investment. Set very strict criteria for yourself and make sure any business idea hits all of your criteria before spending more than 10 minutes effort on it. I went through hundreds of ideas before I found one that worked for me and my life. My criteria were 1) Can be started while working full time, 2) can be launched for less than $3K, and 3) had recurring revenue as part of the business model. Sticking to this criteria really focused me, so when the right idea came along I was ready to move very quickly. I went from concept to launch within 3 months. Anyone who wants to start a business should put their criteria first, business ideas second.

Do you have a Unique Selling Point?

Because there were so many other sock subscription businesses already out there, I knew I needed a very strong point of difference. From the beginning I put art and collaboration with artists at the centre of everything we do. Adding in a monthly charity partner, and deciding to produce locally also went a long way to getting us customers that want to feel good about their purchase and support local industry.

Do you think making decisions on a gut feeling is a good idea?

A lot of the time, yes. I try to be rational and objective in my decision making, but ultimately if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it.

What is your experience with paid ads? Do you recommend Google Adwords or Facebook Ads?

I’ve used advertising on Google, Facebook and Twitter. All have produced results but in the end the ROI can vary quite a bit depending on the season. I the end I’ve found the most effective tool for growing the brand has been word of mouth. Focus on the product and experience, and your customers will sell your product for you.

To learn more about Jeff’s company please visit Soxybeast.com.au.

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